Cash call: Fears asbestos repair costs are too great to save nurses’ home

UNCERTAIN FUTURE: Caldwell House was built in 1937.
UNCERTAIN FUTURE: Caldwell House was built in 1937.

The costs to repair the asbestos-riddled former nurses’ quarters buildings in Sale and Dalton streets might be too high to save them from demolition.

Historians and two Orange City councillors said on Monday clean-up costs of about $2.4 million put the 1937-built Caldwell House, which is heritage listed, and the adjacent 1960s-era nurses accommodation, at risk.

State government agency Health Infrastructure (HI) has sent a development application (DA) to Orange City Council seeking an order to demolish both buildings and clear the site next to the old base hospital.

It said highly-dangerous asbestos had been strewn around the buildings when thieves broke in and stole copper piping and wiring in 2016-17. 

The DA said the remediation costs might be more than the property’s value.

“Retention is not economically or physically feasible,” it stated.

Orange and District Historical Society president Liz Edwards said better security should have been provided for the buildings.

“It’s a pity they didn’t look after it better before,” she said.

 “It was a great part of the base hospital, then nurses had to live in the nurses’ quarters.

“It is sad to lose it, [but] I can’t see the justification in putting that amount of money into it.”

Deputy mayor Joanne McRae said the criminal acts were disappointing.

“I would say it is really disgraceful we’ve had such vandalism in a heritage-listed centre,” she said.

“It would be great if we could save the building but I wonder who has the appetite to fund the repairs.”

Cr McRae said it was unclear what council would decide when it eventually considered the demolition order for the properties.

“Council doesn’t own it, that’s really the crux of it,” she said.

Cr Stephen Nugent said he wanted to see heritage buildings preserved where possible but he said costs were an important consideration.

“Highly-significant buildings should be maintained wherever possible. It is part of our history and the story of our city,” he said.

“[However] I am practical enough to know that’s not always possible.”

Historian Euan Greer said too many heritage buildings were being lost.

“I’d need to be persuaded that the economic value justified the need to knock down heritage buildings,” he said.

The DA will go on public display at the council offices on Friday.

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